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Turban Day celebrates Sikh identity and community

04/15/2008


http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus/localnews/ci_8918113
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    FREMONT - TURBANS OF EVERY hue were represented at the fifth annual International Sikh Turban Day on Sunday at the Fremont Gurdwara.



    Youngsters and others got a chance to wear a turban for the first time and some sported the traditional head wrap to show solidarity with their community.

    Guests included Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman, Union City Mayor Mark Green and Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-Livermore, who each wore a turban to raise awareness about the Sikh community.

    "It's very interesting," Wasserman said after getting fitted with a dark blue turban. "It feels good."



    "This is the best I looked all week," Green joked.

    Eleven-year-old Harshdeep Singh of Fremont remembers the first time he wore a turban.

    "I felt kind of happy, because I always admired my dad when he tied his turban," he said.

    Only wearing a turban for the second time, 27-year-old Surjit Chuhan hasn't fully adopted wearing one because he wants to learn more about his culture first.

    "I will do it soon," he said. "The more you learn, the more you want to do it. ... It's our culture."

    Events such as Turban Day always help with the process, Chuhan added.

    The event originated after Sept. 11, when many Sikhs were mistakenly targeted by those who had negative sentiments toward Os-ama bin Laden's al-Qaida faction.

    Al-Qaida followers are Muslims, and some Muslims wear a similar head garment.

    Hardeep Singh Aulakh, founder of Sikh Children Forum, said that because of the turban, Sikhs are "the most visible people in the world."

    "The main reason we started this event was to educate people outside our community," he added.

    About 99 percent of the malesyou see wearing a turban in America are Sikh, said Harjot Khalsa, the president of the temple. "It's an important day to show our identity."

    The Sikh community is originally from India and is not Muslim.

    Visitors from at least nine different counties traveled to the Sikh temple in Fremont to celebrate the event.

    Today the temple will attract thousands of Sikhs to celebrate Vaisakhi, also known as Baisakhi.

    Vaisakhi celebrates when the 10th Guru of the Sikh, Guru Gobind Singh founded Khalsa (meaning purest of the pure), baptized Sikh community April 13, 1699.

    Traditionally, only Sikh men wear turbans.

    It takes about 15 minutes to wrap a turban around your head, temple spokesman Harpaul Singh Rana said.

    Water is sprayed on the starched fabric to make it soft, and then stretched so it is easier to wrap.

    "This is one of the first things we do in the morning," Rana said. "It's our identification card."

    Staff writer Jamaal Johnson covers Union City for The Argus.
    He can be reached at 510-353-7003 or [email protected].
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